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In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray

Robot room service

Date: 01-Sep-2014

Call room service at one of the Starwood group’s Aloft hotels from now on and you may find your small items are delivered by a robot. Described as the hotel industry’s first Botir (robotic butler) it will make its first deliveries at the Aloft Cupertino, appropriately in California’s Silicon Valley. It will, says Starwood, even be able to negotiate the lift.


… and robots go to sea

Date: 01-Sep-2014

Robot bartenders will mix cocktails aboard Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship Quantum of the Seas, which is scheduled to enter service in November. Customers will order their drinks using tablets. 

Quantum of the Seas

Mushroom hunting in Rutland

Date: 29-Aug-2014

Love wild mushrooms? Hambleton Hall, near Oakham in Rutland is offering a foraging outing on October 4 led by mycologist Paul Nichol who will identify those that which are edible and delicious, such as the parasol, and those which cause harm. The excursion to Burley-on-the-Hill wood will be followed by a fungus themed lunch back the hotel, whose chef has a Michelin star. The outing and lunch cost £85 per person. A night’s B&B starts at £265 per double room.

Hambleton Hall

Haiti set to make tourism mark

Date: 28-Aug-2014

Tourism looks set to help Haiti overcome its troubled recent history. Following years of political unrest and the 2010 earthquake which caused so much devastation and grief in the Caribbean country the giant Carnival line has announced its intention to develop a cruise port on the island of Tortuga, just off the north coast. The company estimates it will create over 900 jobs, directly or indirectly and it is expected that eventually cruise passengers will be offered a range of new shore excursions.

Rising demand for long escapes

Date: 27-Aug-2014

Demand from silver travellers for long espapes to a warmer climate appear to be growing. Britanny Ferries says it has sold twice as many four week apartment packages for autumn, winter and spring as it had at this point last year. It has added the Algarve and increased the number of destinations on offer on the Spanish Costas. The packages cost from £599 per person, including the car ferry crossing.

Antarctic lure for solo travellers

Date: 26-Aug-2014

Growing demand from solo travellers has persuaded Quark Expeditions to drop its single supplement for some cabins aboard Ocean Endeavour – a forthcoming addition to its Antarctica expedition fleet. The move means significant savings. Following a major makeover the 199 passenger ship will make 12 voyages starting late next year. The company says there will be a special on board focus on fitness, with passengers being offered the option of healthy meals, yoga and stretching classes and a massage therapy session.

Quark Expeditions

Floating hotel planned

Date: 25-Aug-2014

A ship will be converted into a floating hotel to be moored next to the former royal yacht Britannia, now a tourist attraction in Edinburgh's port of Leith. The MV Windsor Castle, was launched in 1963, the last ship built by the Blythswood Shipbuilding Company in Glasgow. After a conversions costing nearly £1m the hotel is scheduled to open with 25 rooms in Spring 2016.


Airport passengers to be tracked

Date: 23-Aug-2014

Passengers at Helsinki airport may soon receive warnings via their smart phone that they are running out of time to shop or eat before heading for the departure gate. The airport’s operator has installed technology, developed by Finnish company Walkbase, which will track the mobile devices of travellers who leave them switched on using some 300 beacons and routers. The firm says it will not be able to see or store personal data. The system will be used to identify bottlenecks and eventually to send passengers information – about delays or gate changes, for example.


BA passengers can now hold flights

Date: 22-Aug-2014

British Airways now allows passengers seeking the best airline deals will be able to hold flights for up to 72 hours through It costs £5 or £10 for short or long haul trips to most destinations respectively. Seats can be held until 21 days before departure. Only one traveller’s name is needed. Other names can be added within the 72 hour window. The move applies to BA and Iberia, code sharing flights, Iberia Express and Air Nostrum  - and any combination of BA and Iberia services, provided they are on the same ticket. NB: there are some destinations which aren’t included for what BA describes as “complex fluctuating tax calculations”. These include Israel, Norway, Denmark and Sweden – though the airline says they will be added “in due course”.

Cunard cancels two cruises

Date: 21-Aug-2014

Cunard has cancelled two cruises on the Queen Victoria after the need to replace a bearing in a propulsion unit forced it to bring forward the ship’s planned refit. Cruises affected are a 12 night sailing to the Canaries leaving on January 3-and a five-night trip to Amsterdam and Cherbourg departing immediately after that. 15-20 January 2015. Passengers have been offered full refunds or £100 credits against alternative bookings for cruise departing before January 17, 2017.

Queen Victoria - Cunard

China flights boost for Heathrow

Date: 20-Aug-2014

Air China is to double the number of weekly flights it operates to Beijing from Heathrow. From October it will fly two round trips a day from the London airport’s new Terminal 2, where all its fellow members of the Star Alliance have chosen to operate under the same roof. The airline also flies to Beijing from Gatwick. Also in October China Eastern will add an extra round trip to its Heathrow-Shanghai service.


Tourist attractions fail disabled visitors

Date: 19-Aug-2014

Britain’s top tourist attractions still have some way to go before catering fully for disabled people, according to a new survey. The charity Vitalise said just under half of the country’s 100 most visited attractions responded to its request for basic accessibility information. Of the 52 that did reply 63% said they were not completely accessible for wheelchair users, 25% had no parking places for disabled drivers or passengers, on 13% had trained staff in disability awareness and 26% hadn’t put relevant information on their web sites. Chief Executive, Chris Simmonds, commented: "The results of our survey show too many of Britain's tourist attractions are not taking accessibility seriously. That has got to improve. But, just as importantly, these venues need to work just as hard on how they communicate essential accessibility information to people with disabilities. Our own research shows two thirds of disabled people decide against visiting attractions because of a lack of clear information about how accessible it is."

Read about the Silver Travel Advisor guide to Great British Accessible Attractions.

Monarch quits East Midlands

Date: 18-Aug-2014

Monarch Airlines is to stop flying from East Midlands Airport by the end of April next year. The change is part of its planned transformation into a low cost scheduled airline as it moves away from charters. In announcing its decision Monarch noted that its Birmingham base was only 37 miles from East Midlands by road. Chief Executive Andrew Swaffield said: “As holiday habits change, our customers want a greater choice of flight times and destinations – particularly for short breaks. As we evolve from our roots in charter flying to become a scheduled European low-cost carrier we are becoming more focussed in the services we offer which we believe will provide customers overall with a more attractive flying schedule in the future.”


Monarch Airlines

Art where trains ran – project launched

Date: 15-Aug-2014

If you encounter an upturned railway carriage while out walking in the Northamptonshire countryside during the next few months, don’t rush to call the emergency services. It’ll probably be an installation by the Catalan artist and architect Xevi Bayona. He is one of a group of artists taking part in Changing Tracks, the positioning of outdoor public artworks on or close to disused railway lines, which will be launched on August 15th. Venues will include the Nene Valley. Aideen Berry, for example, will draw inspiration from the now ridiculous seeming 19th century “Hints for Lady Travellers by Lillian Campbell Davidson with stop motion video projections at unexpected locations. The works will remain in place until November.

Circus comes to hotel guests

Date: 14-Aug-2014

The staff bend over backwards for guests at the Sol & Luna Lodge and Spa, a five star property near Cusco in Peru. Well, some of them do. The hotel has four in house acrobats who formerly worked with the Cirque du Soleil and now perform outdoors with equipment including a trapeze - against the backdrop of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Sol & Luna Lodge and Spa

Newcastle gets new sun flights

Date: 13-Aug-2014

Jet2 is to launch weekly flights to four sunshine destinations from Newcastle next year. Starting in May the low fare airline will operate to Antalya (Turkey on Fridays, Malta on Thursdays, Larnaca (Cyprus), and Zante – both on Wednesdays.

Have the slopes to yourself

Date: 12-Aug-2014

Guests at the posh Tschuggen Grand Hotel in the Swiss resort of Arosa will have exclusive use of the slopes on November 28 - the opening day of the season. The runs can be reached in 2mins 30secs using the hotel’s private mountain railway. Three night half board in a double room, with access to the Tschuggen Bergoase Spa and a ski pass for the 29th costs around £628.

Tschuggen Grand Hotel

Round Asia flight pass launched

Date: 11-Aug-2014

The SkyTeam airline group has launched a round Asia pass allowing travellers to undercut the price of booking with individual carriers. As an example it cites an itinerary starting in Guangzhou, China, and taking in Sydney, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Taipei and Seoul, which costs €2029. Bought separately from airlines belonging to the alliance it would cost €2664. Passengers can buy passes in three mileage bands of 13,000, 17,000 and 21,00 and itineraries could include destinations as diverse as Uzbekistan and the Maldives. They can be booked through travel agents or direct with any of the 20 SkyTeam members.

Indian river cruises launched

Date: 08-Aug-2014

River cruises in northern India have been introduced for next year by tour operator Cox & Kings. The vessel used will be the RV Rajmahal, launched this year, whose draft allows t to negotiate shallow channels. An 11 night tour, with a week cruising between Patna and Varanasi, costs from £2495 per person.

RV Rajmahal

Amsterdam summer city of choice

Date: 07-Aug-2014

Amsterdam looks like being the European city destination of choice this summer holiday peak, according to hotel market intelligence provider TravelClick. On average its hotels have committed bookings for 54.8% of their rooms. London and Paris are close behind, each with 50.6% booked, though at weekend in the former it’s closer to two thirds. Barcelona is averaging 37.5% and Prague is hovering around 22%.


Unlimited free Wi-Fi at Munich Airport

Date: 06-Aug-2014

Let’s hear it for Munich Airport which has just announced travellers can connect with the internet free of charge – for as long as they like. Previously passengers wanting to get on line using laptops, tablets or smart phones were allowed on 30 minutes free.

Munich Airport

Coach firm collapse – clients offered deal

Date: 05-Aug-2014

Customers of collapsed coach firm Hatts have been offered half price replacement holidays. The offer came from Westin super Mare based coach company Bakers Dolphin. It is estimated that around 1000 people had outstanding bookings with the Hatts when the Wiltshire based firm went into administration. Bakers Dolphin said most of its holidays included pick up points throughout Wiltshire and many offered home pick ups. Hatts customers interested in taking up the offer should call 01934 415000.

Bakers Dolphin

Delta to launch new Utah flights

Date: 04-Aug-2014

Salt Lake City is not just a gateway to the national parks of Utah – such as Arches, Zion and Bryce Canyon. It’s also a good jumping off point for other spectacular parks, including Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. Delta will launch a new service there from Amsterdam next spring, creating a new potential link for travellers from the UK who will be able to connect via Schiphol airport on flights by the US carrier’s partner, KLM. Delta already operates between Salt Lake and Paris.

Arches, Utah

Tablets in hotel rooms trial

Date: 02-Aug-2014

Make sure you’re internet savvy as tablets look likely to become widely available in hotel rooms. The Mandarin Oriental group is testing a scheme  to make the information you usually get in big printed folders available via apps running on Microsoft Surface Pro devices. The apps will cover in room dining, concierge and housekeeping requests, for example. The scheme is being piloted at hotels in London, Washington DC, Las Vegas and Tokyo.

Hotel opens in Denver station

Date: 01-Aug-2014

The Great Hall at Denver’s Union Station serves as the main lobby of a new hotel which has just opened there. The 112 room Crawford occupies the upper floors of the north and south wings of the building, which opened originally in 1881 and is undergoing a major transformation, including the opening of restaurants from which guests may order via room service. A rail link between the station and Denver International Airport is scheduled to open in 2016.

Denver Union Station

Ride India’s little trains on new tour

Date: 31-Jul-2014

A new tour enabling customers to ride India’s last remaining 2ft gauge railways has been introduced by train holiday specialist Ffestiniog Travel. The 20 day trip takes in The Neral to Matheran line near Mumbai, the Scindia State Railway at Gwalior and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Other train travel is also included. Departure will be on January 10 next winter. The price, including flights, is £4350 person based on two sharing.

India by rail

Berlin flights for Birmingham

Date: 30-Jul-2014

Birmingham will get a new link with Berlin when FlyBe launches flights to the German capital’s Tegel airport on October 26. The airline will operate five round trips a week, on Mondays. Tuesdays, Thursdays. Fridays and Sundays. On the same date FlyBe will start flying between Birmingham and Aberdeen. It recently announced it would fill the vacuum threatened between London City and Aberdeen route following British Airways’ decision to withdraw from the route at the end of summer.

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Washington - new airport link opens

Date: 29-Jul-2014

A new transport link had opened between Washington’s Dulles airport and downtown. Launch of the new Silver Line Metrorail service enables travellers to take the train to or from Wiehle-Reston East – one of five new stations on a new network extension – and complete the journey by shuttle bus. Buses depart every six minutes during the rush hours and every 12 – 20 minutes at other times. It costs $11 – or less if you board or disembark at an intermediate station. A taxi could cost you around $50. In four years time trains are scheduled to run all the way to the airport.


Washington DC

Tougher rules for cruise ship smokers

Date: 24-Jul-2014

Smoking bans continue to be toughened on cruise ships. Norwegian Cruise Line is the latest to prohibit it on stateroom balconies. The ban will take effect on November 1. The company will also only allow smoking on the starboard side of The Waterfront aboard two ships – Norwegian Getaway and Breakaway – and even then not outside restaurants. In the casino – presumably so gamblers can calm their nerves – it will be limited to passengers actually playing. Earlier this month it emerged that Carnival would also introduce a balcony ban, from October 9.


BA to lunch new Canaries service

Date: 23-Jul-2014

British Airways will start flying to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands on December 13. This will be the first time it has flown there for ten years, though it already operates to neighbouring Tenerife and Lanzarote. Flights will depart year round, twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Canary Islands - photo courtesy of Canary Islands Tourism

Air NZ wins premium economy vote

Date: 22-Jul-2014

From small beginnings, premium economy has now become a widely available alternative for travellers who want a bit more comfort but baulk at the thought of paying business class fares. For the second year running, Air New Zealand’s premium economy has been voted the world’s best in the annual passenger poll by online are travel benchmarking specialist Skytrax. Qantas and Turkish Airlines came second and third respectively. Cathay Pacific was voted best airline overall. In the low cost category Norwegian, which has just launched flights to the US from Gatwick, came third behind AirAsia and its long haul arm Airsia X. The poll covers aspects of airline service from catering to staff performance.

Free chargers at Heathrow

Date: 21-Jul-2014

A symptom of the latest security scare at London’s busiest airport: Geronimo Inns are providing free chargers for electronic devices following the latest security scare. Passengers may now be deprived of their phones or other devices if they can’t be switched on at security checkpoints. Travellers visiting the Five Tuns in Terminal 5, the Three Bells in Terminal 3 and the Tin Goose in Terminal 1 will be able not only to charge their batteries but will have access to power points if they have their own chargers with them.

Heathrow Terminal 5

French home stays launched

Date: 19-Jul-2014

Fancy brushing up your French? Home stays with French families have been launched in the Mayenne area of the western Loire. Besides helping guests to extend their vocabularies and brush up their grammar the new “cultural immersion” programme, called Let’s Speak, includes visits to local bakers,for example, to learn how baguettes and flutes are made and trips to markets to gain insights into food production. A week’s stay costs €722.50 per person for full board, based on two people staying with the same family or €270 for a two day. One night stay. Visit or call 0033 2 43026027.

Tunisia travel alert

Date: 18-Jul-2014

The Foreign Office has updated its advice to travellers heading for Tunisia, warning of a high threat from terrorism – including kidnapping. Listing recent attacks it says more cannot be ruled out “including in the coastal resorts”. The Tunisian Ministry of the Interior has warned of an increase in threats during the month of Ramadan and in the run up to elections scheduled to take place in October and November.

Airlines skirt Ukraine

Date: 18-Jul-2014

Flights are avoiding Ukraine airspace following yesterday’s Malaysian Airlines disaster. The Brussels based air traffic coordinating organization Eurocontrol said it had heard from the Ukrainian authorities that routes over the east of the country had been closed until further notice, and it was rejecting any flight plans which took aircraft there. It was clear that aviation safety authorities had not expected an aircraft to be downed by a missile while flying at such an altitude. Thai Airways, to quote one carrier, issued a statement today saying all its flights to and from Europe had been rerouted. British Airways said its flights were not using Ukrainian airspace save for services to and from Kiev. “We are keeping those services under review, but Kiev is several hundred kilometres from the incident site. Virgin Atlantic said it was “not currently flying over this air space.” A spokeswoman said any effect on flight times was likely to be minimal.

Dolomites hotel opens

Date: 17-Jul-2014

A new hotel with a wrap around infinity pool has opened above the Italian Dolomites resort of Ortisei. The Adler Mountain Lodge, formerly the Hotel Mezdi, is 1800 metres above sea level, in the middle of a ski piste. It has 18 suites in the main building and 12 two-storey chalets a little further up the slope. Guests are encouraged to leave their cars in Ortisei and take a ski lift up, while the hotel tansports their luggage. If visitors want to drive the Adler has to get them a permit, as the mountains around are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rates start at €207 per person per night, full board, including activities such as guided hiking and skiing – and yoga at sunset.

Adler Mountain Lodge

Free Wi-Fi at New York airports

Date: 16-Jul-2014

Passengers will soon be able to access the internet free at several New York airports, including John F Kennedy and Newark. An upgraded Wi-Fi system will allow up to 30 minutes us without charge. The move follows an agreement to revise the contract between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Boingo Wireless.

Street View installed on cruise ship

Date: 15-Jul-2014

Potential cruise customers can now “tour” Royal Caribbean’s ship Allure of the Seas using Google Street View. Following installation of the technology on board, they can see cabins, explore areas such as the Royal Promenade, which runs almost the length of the ship and is lined with restaurants, boutiques and lounges, go inside the restaurants and view facilities such as pools, the climbing wall and basketball court. Go to

Allure of the Seas

Scots to get Abu Dhabi flights

Date: 14-Jul-2014

Etihad Airways is to start flying between Edinburgh and its home base, Abu Dhabi. From June 8 next year it will operate daily, non stop services using A330-200 aircraft with 240 economy and 22 business class seats. Flights will depart from Scotland at 9.15am, arriving at 7.45pm. Departures from Abu Dhabi will be at 2.40am, reaching Edinburgh at 7.40am. The airline already flies to London and Manchester.

Colombia and Panama flights launched

Date: 11-Jul-2014

TAP Portugal has launched flights to the Colombian capital, Bogota, and Panama City from London. The airline is operating the route four times a week from Heathrow via Lisbon, on Mondays. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Warehouse becomes hotel

Date: 10-Jul-2014

The red brick North Warehouse on Liverpool’s Stanley Dock has opened as a hotel. The Titanic Hotel is named in honour of the ship whose owners, the White Star Line, were based in the city. The line’s headquarters have already become a luxury hotel - 30 James Street – which opened recently. The Titanic promises 153 very large rooms and a spa with a pool and a gym.

The Titanic Hotel, Liverpool

Explore Hong Kong with a local

Date: 09-Jul-2014

Free tours guided by locals are now on offer in Hong Kong. Visitors can check in for a consultation with one of a team of volunteers calls Hong Kong Pals who – according to the tourist board - are “eager to share their passion and enthusiasm for the city.” For example you could look at buildings with an urban planner or eat out with a local foodie. You can book on line and meet the volunteers at the Hong Kong Tourism Board visitor centres in Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon) or at the Peak (Hong Kong Island). Further information at

More Stansted flights for Ryanair

Date: 08-Jul-2014

Ryanair is to launch 12 new routes from Stansted for next winter. The budget fare airline will operate to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Athens, Basle, Bordeaux, Bucharest, Cologne, Perpignan, Prague, Podgorica (Montenegro) and Skeleftea Swedish Lapland). And flights to Dublin from Prestwick will switch to Glasgow International.

Cote d’Azur’s new tourist card

Date: 07-Jul-2014

A new electronic tourist card has been launched, allowing free access to a huge range of attractions ands activities on and around the Cote d’Azur. It covers entrance, for example, to the Picasso, Renoir and Bonnard Museums, respectively in Antibes, Cagnes sur Mer and Le Cannet, and the International Museum of Perfumerie in Grasse. Also included in the list are various guided tours – among them an exploration of Cannes’ links with the cinema. For a complete run down visit www.coted’ It costs €39 per adult for three consecutive days or €54 for six days.


New Dusseldorf flights

Date: 04-Jul-2014

Germanwings is to launch flights between Stansted and Dusseldorf – an excellent weekend break destination – on August 22. The airline will operate two round trips each weekday and one n Saturdays and Sundays.


Hawaii hiking holidays launched

Date: 03-Jul-2014

Walking holidays on Hawaii have been launched for next year by HF Holidays. The trips involve hopping between four islands - the Big Island, Oahu, Kauai and Maui. A variety of walks include one in the Volcanoes National Park and another through Kauai’s Waimea Canyon. Customers will also go stargazing with experts at the Mauna Kea observatory and take in some sightseeing. There will be three departures. The 11 night holidays cost £4099 including flights from Heathrow or £3159 for those making their own travel arrangements.


Docklands get Dublin link

Date: 02-Jul-2014

British Airways is to start flying to Dublin from London City Airport. From October 26 it will fly up to five round trips a day. The airline is also upping the number of flights it operates from the Docklands airport to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Ferry link future in doubt

Date: 01-Jul-2014

Eurotunnel has been given six months to end its MyFerryLink service between Dover and Calais. Confirming its earlier ruling the Competition and Markets Authority said the service could continue if the tunnel operator found another, completely independent owner for MyFerryLink. Meanwhile MyFerryLink has said it will appeal against the ruling. Alisdair Smith, who chaired the Authority group investigating the case, said: “It remains our view that the current level of competition on the cross Channel route is unsustainable and likely to lead to the exit of a competitor”. That would leave Eurotunnel, “which is finding MyFerryLink’s current losses, as only one of two ferry operators in addition to owning the competing rail link”. MyFerryLink was set up two years ago after Groupe Eurotunnel acquired three ferries previously owned by SeaFrance.



Thai Airways Heathrow move delayed

Date: 30-Jun-2014

Thai Airways has postponed its move from Heathrow’s Terminal 3 to the airport’s newly opened Terminal 2, which was planned for July 2. The airline says the delay – until later this summer - will allow the new terminal’s baggage systems to undergo further trials “to ensure they work properly”.

New tour bus in service in Vilnius

Date: 27-Jun-2014

The Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, is offering a new hop on, hop off bus service. With 24 or 48hr tickets, the route has six stops near main tourist attractions and hotels. There’s also an audio guide service on board. Tickets, which can be bought on the bus, at the Vilnius City Tour agency or at the city’s tourist information centre, where you can also book a walking tour of the old town. They cost from around £11.50.

Severe weather museum opens

Date: 26-Jun-2014

Extreme Mount Washington, a museum providing insights into the notoriously severe weather experienced on the 6288ft summit in New Hampshire, has just opened after a $1 million re-build. It was there that the world’s highest wind observed by man speed was recorded in 1934 (a higher speed has since been recorded remotely). The anemometer used to measure that blast is among the other exhibits. Visitors can learn how rime ice forms and use simulator which allows them to “drive” a snowcat up a road to the summit. In favourable weather – generally May to October – you can drive, hike or take the cog railway to the top.

Zillertal golf course set to open

Date: 25-Jun-2014

The first golf course in Austria’s Zillertal is scheduled to open in Uderns on July 1. At 550 metres above sea level the 18 hole course covers an area of 65 acres. The complex will include practice areas, a golf school and a clubhouse. A four star hotel next to the course is planned to open in the Autumn.

Zillertal Golf Course

New hotel for Warsaw

Date: 24-Jun-2014

Warsaw has a new hotel. The 300 room Hampton by Hilton is close to the Polish capital’s main railway station and not far from heart of the old town, which was reconstructed after the Nazis blew it up. Free Wi-Fi access is available throughout the property.

Stansted move for Cyprus Airways

Date: 23-Jun-2014

Cyprus Airways is to switch its Larnaca flights from Heathrow to Stansted from mid-September. The move follows the sale of the airline’s Heathrow take off and landing slots to American Airlines.


New river cruise guide

Date: 21-Jun-2014

A new guide which compares and rates European river cruise ships is now available. It’s been compiled by Douglas Ward, who has written the annual Berlitz guide to cruising at sea for the past 30 years. The new guide – Berlitz: River Cruising in Europe – costs £14.99.

Viking sites make “must see” list

Date: 20-Jun-2014

Lonely Planet has included Viking Denmark – and umbrella label for places linked with those fearsome old explorers – on its latest list of “must see” destinations in Europe. Others on the list include the Outer Hebrides and Plzen in the Czech Republic, birthplace of pilsner beer. On the Viking trail the guidebook publisher’s recommendations include visits to Roskilde, where five of their ships are displayed in the Viking Ship Museum, the Viking ship grave and museum on the island of Funen – and  the town of Ribe – founded around 700 as a Viking marketplace.

Viking Denmark

Richard III centre set to open

Date: 19-Jun-2014

Following the discovery of the much maligned monarch’s remains beneath a Leicester car park last year the King Richard III Visitor Centre is scheduled to open in the city on July 26. Titled “Dynasty, Death and Discovery” the exhibition will include a reconstruction of Richard’s face and a replica of his skeleton showing his injuries – among them the fatal blow – at the Battle of Bosworth. Timed tickets are available at

Cruise and walk – single supplements axed

Date: 18-Jun-2014

Single supplements have been scrapped on some Ramblers cruise and walk holidays for customers prepared to book by the end of June. Departures on which the deal applies include sailings to Spain and the Baltic and around Britain and Ireland. The cruises are on Fred Olsen ships.

Silver ramblers

UK launch for Japan walking tours

Date: 17-Jun-2014

A travel company specialising in tours of Japan on foot is now selling holidays in the UK. Hong Kong based Walk Japan, which primarily appeals to travellers over 50, offers 11 itineraries of various lengths, including a six day circuit if Mount Fuji and an 11 day hike along the ancient Nakasendo Way - crowded in the 17th century with merchants, pilgrims and samurai - between Kyoto and Tokyo.

Spain: car hire firms under fire

Date: 15-Jun-2014

Car hire fuel “rip offs” in Spain have come under fire from Which? The watchdog organisation has teamed up with Spanish consumer group OCU to demand companies charge fair prices in line with those available at local garages – and stop requiring customers to pay for a full tank when they drive off – and failing to refund them for unused fuel when they return the car. Six out of 10 Which? Members said this so called “full-empty” policy was the only option available to them and 72% thought they had paid prices higher than those at local garages. Which? says that in many cases travellers hit by this practice are unable to use a tankful. Someone hiring a Fiat 500 in Mallorca, for example, would need to make the round trip from Palma airport to Puerto Pollenca nearly seven times. It commends Alamo, Enterprise and Autoreisen for operating a full-full policy, where customers are asked to return the car full so they don’t pay for unused fuel.


Quebec landmark hotel refurbished

Date: 14-Jun-2014

Quebec City’s landmark Chateau Frontenac hotel, which opened in 1893 and overlooks the St Lawrence river and the Plain of Abraham, which Wolfe defeated the French forces under Montcalm, has just emerged from a million refurbishment. The re-vamp encompassed all 611 rooms, public areas including the lobby and ballroom and a newly built spa.

Stroll along the prom – at sea

Date: 13-Jun-2014

Two new ships promising “sea level promenades” have been ordered by MSC Cruises. Passengers will be able to walk right around them, says the company, stopping, perhaps, at shops and restaurants on the way. The ships – project name “Seaside” -will also have terraced balconies and lifts with sea views. Costing around £570 million each and carrying up to 5300 passengers, they are scheduled for delivery in late 2017 and spring 2018.

Birmingham to get new Iceland link

Date: 12-Jun-2014

Icelandair is to launch flights between Birmingham and Reykjavik next year. From February 5 it will operate two round trips a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, using Boeing 757 aircraft.

Sightseeing at the double

Date: 11-Jun-2014

Cruising too sedentary for you? Crystal Cruises is now offering excursions on the run. Passengers are being invited to join guided 5-10 kilometre jogging tours of European port cities and beauty spots – along the canals of Amsterdam, for example, taking in some of the great sights of St Petersburg or setting off on paths by Loch Lomond. Reflective safety gear and refreshments are provided.

Provence farm is now luxury hotel

Date: 10-Jun-2014

A former farm in Provence has become a new five star hotel with its own golf course. Domaine de Manville sits in a valley beneath the medieval village of Les Baux in the Alpilles region. It has 30 rooms, 9 villas, a spa, pool and a restaurant on a 100 acre estate. Rooms can be booked through Small Luxury Hotels of the World. A double in mid-September, for example, costs around £260.

Domaine de Manville golf course

The Inca Trail in comfort

Date: 09-Jun-2014

If you can cope with the exercise and altitude, Peru’s Inca Trail to Machu Picchu can now be tackled in relative comfort. UK travel firm Exsus is offering trips in what it calls “VIP style” – with big tents, hot water bottles, hot showers, slippers and a turn down service. “Gourmet” meals come with “fine wines”. It goes without saying that all the gear is carried by porters. It’s even possible to book an accompanying masseuse – at an extra cost. The tour also includes a visit on horseback to the saltpans of Maras and travel on the Hiram Bingham train to Cusco. It costs from £5195, including flights, based on four people travelling.

Inca trail

New cheap flights from Gatwick planned

Date: 06-Jun-2014

Low cost airline Norwegian is to launch new flights from Gatwick to Berlin and Warsaw. Starting on September 15 it will operate six flights a week on both routes, promising fares starting at £29.90 and £34.90 respectively.

New wheelchair for air travellers

Date: 05-Jun-2014

A new wheelchair which can be stowed in an aircraft’s overhead locker has been developed by Staffordshire based manufacturer RGK. The TIGA fx is designed to fold front first. RGK, was founded by Russel Simms and Greg Eden, who met while playing wheelchair basketball for the Birmingham Bulls.

Kuoni launches Jaffna tours

Date: 04-Jun-2014

The return of tourism to Sri Lanka’s war ravaged Jaffna Peninsula has gathered pace with the news that leading long haul operator Kuoni is dipping a toe in the water there. It has been included in its new Indian Ocean and Arabia brochure (covering the period September 2014 – December 2015). Customers will spend two nights in the city of Jaffna during a new tour (Definitive Sri Lanka) with only two departure dates. Alternatively they can go there on a private car and driver itinerary. Accommodation is at the Jaffna Heritage hotel – which is vegetarian and doesn’t serve alcohol.

Jaffna Heritage Hotel

Heathrow’s reborn T2 opens

Date: 03-Jun-2014

A reminder that Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 – the Queen’s Terminal - opens on Wednesday 4th June. It will be home to 23 airlines belonging to the Star Alliance, which will move flights there over several months. Check when your airline transfers its operations there at

Trips to see European bison “rewilding”

Date: 02-Jun-2014

Tour operator Wildlife Worldwide has launched trips to witness the reintroduction of the European bison to the Southern Carpathian mountains in Romania. The continent’s largest land mammal was hunted to extinction in the wild by 1927. But in mid-May 17 bison were taken to an acclimatisation zone in the remote Tarcu Mountain Reserve. Ten more will be introduced during the summer. In early September the first bison will be released into the wild, becoming the first to roam these mountains since the 18th century. One aim of the project is to create business opportunities for local people, some of whom have already been trained as rangers and guides. Though the trips will concentrate on the bison, customers will also learn about and go in search of other wildlife, including brown bears. The five day packages, take place between mid-June and September and cost from £1495 including flights.


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